Sexual Health Medical Myths

Sexual health has a wide range of misconceptions and myths surrounding sexual health. Nine widespread misconceptions will be addressed in this episode of Medical Myths. We discuss topics like double condoms, toilet seats, and the “pull-out” technique, among others.

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The number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has increased in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source reported in April 2021 that STIs had peaked for the sixth year in a row in 2019.

Over 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported to the CDC in 2019.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 million STIs are contracted every day across the globe.

Despite rising rates, STIs continue to carry a lot of stigma. Some people may interpret this as a decreased willingness to discuss sexual health concerns or ask questions of a doctor.

This reluctance to discuss sexual health openly can lead to false information.

Of course, if someone has a question they’d like to ask anonymously, the internet is a convenient first stop. Sadly, not all information found online can be relied upon.

Here, Medical News Today addressed some widespread myths about sexual health and sought advice from a professional:

Dr. Sue Mann, a medical specialist in reproductive health at Public Health England and a consultant in sexual and reproductive health.

A greater understanding of sexual health aids decision-making and keeps people safe. The more reliable information that is available, despite the fact that one article cannot erase deeply ingrained myths, the better.

1. A person who takes “the pill” cannot contract a STI

This is untrue. You cannot avoid getting a STI by using oral contraception.

Oral contraception only functions to prevent pregnancy, Dr. Mann told MNT. Wearing a condom is the only way to avoid contracting a STI while using oral contraception.

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The CDC echoes this by stating that birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring, and intrauterine device (IUD) are very effective at preventing pregnancy but do not offer protection from [STIs] and HIV.

2. Pregnancy is avoided using the “withdrawal method.”

The penis is pulled out of the vagina prior to ejaculation in the so-called withdrawal method, also known as coitus interruptus or the pull-out method. The withdrawal method “is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy,” according to Dr. Mann, even though it may lower the likelihood of conception.

It can lower the risk of pregnancy when used correctly, but accuracy can be challenging in a stressful situation.

Pre-ejaculate, also known as pre-cum, is additionally released by the penis prior to ejaculation. Sperm may occasionally be found in this fluid.

For instance, in one study trusted Source, researchers looked at samples of pre-ejaculate from 27 participants. Ten of the participant’s pre-ejaculates contained viable sperm, according to the researchers.

Five samples most from each volunteer. It’s interesting to note that the researchers either found sperm in every sample or none of them. In other words, while sperm is not always present in the pre-ejaculate, some people do. Finally, the authors stated:

Despite the possibility that some men, who are less likely to leak spermatozoa in their pre-ejaculatory fluid, are better able to practice coitus interruptus than others, “[C]ondoms should continue to be used from the first moment of genital contact.”

3. The “withdrawal method” stops the spread of STIs

According to Dr. Mann, using the withdrawal technique “you can still get a STI, such as HIV, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia.”

4. Using two condoms increases protection by two fold.

It makes sense why some might believe that using two condoms would offer twice the protection, but this is a myth.

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The use of two or more condoms during sexual activity is actually riskier, according to Dr. Mann. “Due to the amount of friction the condom is experiencing, there is a higher chance that it will break. The ideal solution is a single condom.

5. Toilet seats can spread STIs to you

This is possibly one of the STI myths that persists the most. Yet it continues to be a myth despite being repeatedly refuted. Dr. Mann stated to MNT:

“STIs are transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, by genital contact, and by sharing sex toys,” according to the CDC.

Additionally, she added that since STI-causing viruses “cannot survive for long outside the human body, they typically die quickly on surfaces like toilet seats.”

Similar to this, STI-causing bacteria like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cannot survive for an extended period of time outside the body’s mucous membranes. They couldn’t survive on a toilet seat because of this.

6. There is no cure for STIs.

That is untrue. However, not all of them can be cured even though they can be treated. According to the WHOTrusted Source, eight pathogens account for the vast majority of STIs.

The bacterial infections syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, as well as the parasitic infection trichomoniasis, are four of the eight treatable diseases.

Hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV), HIV, and human papillomavirus are the other four (HPV). These are still incurable. However, it is important to remember that the body frequently naturally gets rid of HPV infections.

7. Unless you engage in penetrative sex, you cannot contract a STI.

There are other ways besides penetrative sex for someone to get a STI. Other ways that STIs can spread include oral sex, genital contact, and sharing sex toys, according to Dr. Mann, who spoke to MNT.

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In addition to sexual contact, exposure to blood that harbors the infectious pathogen, such as through sharing needles, can result in the development of a STI.

8. HIV is only contracted by gay men

Another enduring and wholly false premise is this one. As stated by Dr. Mann:

“Anyone can contract HIV, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, or gender. You are more likely to transmit HIV if you have it but are unaware of it. However, if you are aware of your condition, you can ensure that you and your partner(s) are making healthy choices.

9. Only those with symptoms can spread a STI.

Dr. Mann noted that many people transmit STIs to others covertly. “STIs can spread both with and without symptoms.”

The majority of STIs, according to the WHO, “have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognized as a STI,” Trusted Source.

In order to prevent STIs as much as possible, Dr. Mann stated, “it is important to be tested frequently and to use a condom.”

In conclusion, STIs are widespread but preventable. Being STI-free requires routine testing and knowledge of safety precautions.

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